North Dakota voters: University can drop Fighting Sioux name
Evan Trupp of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux tries to keep the puck in a hockey game against the Michigan on April 7, 2011.
June 13th, 2012
11:47 AM ET

North Dakota voters: University can drop Fighting Sioux name

North Dakota voters have - for now, at least - cleared the way for the University of North Dakota’s athletic teams to drop their controversial Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

North Dakotans voted 60.5% to 39.5% on Tuesday in favor of a referendum measure that essentially gives the school the power to drop the name, which it has sought to do to comply with an NCAA campaign targeting Native American nicknames.

“We are appreciative that voters took the time to listen and to understand the issues and the importance of allowing the university to move forward,” university President Robert O. Kelley said Wednesday.

But a years-long battle over the nickname might not be over, with supporters hoping to force another vote - this time calling for changing the state Constitution to mandate the name’s use - in November.

The issue stems from the NCAA's longstanding efforts to get most Native American nicknames and logos out of college athletics. In 2005, the NCAA ordered almost 20 schools whose nicknames and mascots it deemed "abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin" to either get Native American permission to use their names and likenesses or come up with new ones.

The NCAA said that schools continuing to use such nicknames without permission would, among other things, be prohibited from hosting NCAA championship events.

Although one tribal body, Spirit Lake, supported the Fighting Sioux nickname, another group, the Tribal Council of the Standing Rock Sioux, did not give its endorsement. So the North Dakota Board of Higher Education agreed in 2007 to retire the nickname by August 2011.

But some North Dakotans, including the Spirit Lake group, objected, and the state Legislature passed a law in early 2011 requiring the university to use the Fighting Sioux nickname.

That law was repealed in November, when legislators approved Senate Bill 2370, which allowed the school to stop using the moniker.

That prompted the nickname’s supporters to secure petitions forcing Tuesday’s referendum, which asked voters whether Senate Bill 2370 should stand. Tuesday’s “yes” vote keeps the bill in place.

The school stopped referring to its teams as the Fighting Sioux after SB 2370 passed, and the Sioux name and logo were gone from all uniforms except those of the hockey team. But the sports department resumed the nickname's use in news releases in February, when it became clear that the June referendum would happen, said Peter Johnson, executive assistant vice president for university relations.

Johnson said the school will await direction from the State Board of Higher Education, which has a previously scheduled meeting Thursday, regarding when the UND will drop the nickname again. As for a replacement nickname, SB 2730 says UND cannot choose one until January 2015.

But Fighting Sioux supporters have long said they intend to force a vote on constitutionally mandating the name. Supporters have until August to submit enough signatures to put the question on the November ballot.

The UND Alumni Association and Foundation opposes the nickname, saying that the consequences of keeping it extend beyond NCAA sanctions. It says that recruitment is suffering in part because some other schools, including Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota State, won’t compete with UND’s teams over the issue.

The Spirit Lake Committee for Understanding and Respect, which is among the nickname’s supporters, argues that the name and log represent the Sioux people and North Dakota history well.

“We as North Dakotans have many great schools in our state. Each has its own pride and traditions. UND is no exception. The Fighting Sioux is to UND as Coke is to Coca Cola. The name has become the branding of UND,” the group says on its website.

- CNN's Jason Hanna, Kevin Conlon and Phil Gast contributed to this report.

Post by:
Filed under: Native Americans • North Dakota • Sports
soundoff (248 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Irony is American Indians weren't Indians until early misguided explorers named them. Most all the names we associate the indigenous tribes were coined by French, English and Spanish colonists. The. true indigenous names are long forgotten except for those who are tribal members. The familiar names we associate with native Americans will be lost forever.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Phil Keenan

    Forgot to mention the gentleman who built and paid for the hockey rink who said he will shut it down if they ever change the name. Check 60min broadcast

    June 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mr. Moneypants

    With all the money floating around college athletics surely they can scratch up enough to pay the Sioux for permission to use the name. Get those shady athletic boosters moving!

    June 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • crowgan

      There is a new baseball team in New York called the New York Jews

      June 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CT

    PC gone wild – the logo and nickname are, at least in my eyes, very respectful. Just one of the stupidest things I have seen in a long time

    June 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jack M.

    North Dakota Fighting Polecats!!!

    June 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Howdydoody

      Well if they are offended by the teams called the Fighting Sioux, why not just change the name to be more approriate and descriptive of Native Americans. My name accurately descibes the typical college kid on a weekend, and most of the "offended" Native Americans. Just call it, The North Dakato (Drunk on) Thunderbirds.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cs

    The word Sioux is actually derogatory and was given by a rival tribe. However, its what we have all come to call them and they have accepted this over time. Now, the irony is that the Sioux have actually said that UND has permission to use the Fighting Sioux as UND does it in an honorable way, which means this is all an NCAA witch hunt.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • doughnuts

      The Sioux have also asked the school to stop using the name and logo as they find them disrespetful.
      Depends on which group you ask.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. CD

    Nice work NCAA and hope you feel a little better about yourself today – Way to pick on a small school vs a BSC school that makes the NCAA hand fulls of money (Florida State).

    Not even sure I understand the argument to ban these nicknames...a school's name is badge of honor and most sports fans learn about their mascot and the meaning of why their school is named what it is. This actually does the opposite effect, when will we hear about the 'Fighting Sioux' tribes now?

    June 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obvious Guy

      Actually, the agreement was that the tribe that the name is based off has to give permission. FSU has the permission of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, so, according to the rule, it is ok for FSU to keep Seminoles.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      This is completely different from Florida State. FSU has the full permission and support of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and it is not a derogatory term as Sioux was originally. The tribe referred to themselves as such.
      FSU continues to be treated differently by the NCAA over the last few years with inconsistent rulings on multiple scenarios as a result of continuing to stand up to the NCAA and it's bully pulpit.
      The NCAA encompasses everything WRONG with college athletics today and has become all about a bunch of fat cats in the corporate offices trying to hold on to their jobs.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • doughnuts

      The Seminoles gave Florida State permission.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • diamondLili

      Fact check: Florida State actually got permission to use the name of the Seminoles, from the Florida tribe itself.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. kmac

    It is a shame that some can't see that you name sports teams for the qualiites seen in people, or thing. Wish people could see the naming as admiration not discrimination. How many schools are going to chose a name such as the John Booth or Lee Oswalt assassines. MIght in the south but no where else.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Snowshoe

    Next should be Notre Dame. As an Irish -American I find the nickname :Fighting Irish" and the accompanying caricatures to be offensive.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dliodoir

    The sad part is that rules such as the NCAA requirement to eliminate Native American mascots essentially banishes Native American imagery from the public consciousness. They are relegated to dark corners where no one will even be aware that they still exist. Racist images should go. . .but not Native American mascots. Native Americans are a proud part of our national history and contemporary character and their pride and spirit should be channelled through respectful sports mascots. It is not tongue in cheek to say that if Native American imagery must go than so to mus the Fighting Irish, the Vikings, the Cowboys, the Packers, the Saxons (my high school team), the Gaels and ANY other mascot that uses a ethnicity, tribe or other group of people. Soon the only mascots deemed acceptable will be animal mascots or other non-human imagery like the Jazz and the Heat and the Capitals. I suppose there are even people who oppose the use of animal mascots. At the end of the day, banning Native American mascots simply pushes them to the realm of non-existence.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • MB

      good post. i hated when miami dropped the redskins for the redhawks. never saw anything racist about it. the local indian groups didnt want it changed either

      June 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • PennyNot

      Too true. Several years ago I volunteered to do art work with my daughters kindergarten class. The subject was cowboys & indians, I showed them several prints of works by Remington, Russell etc. They I gave them cut out of human figures and horses and had them decorate them, each to make one cowboy and one indian. The children were able to put cowboy hats on the cowboy but did not have any idea how to decorate the indian. When I asked them what was confusing them, they didn't know how to make a person look like a casino. Sadly, this is their image of american indians, casino owners. I realize a lot of western history was regarding the defeat and humiliation of the american indian tribes but there was a lot to be proud of too. It's sad to think of whole generations growing up thinking indians are only casino owners that offer all you can eat buffets and where grandma goes to spend her quarters.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MB

    We drop the indian names but we allow the fighting irish?

    June 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. El Puko

    North Dakotans are tough. They'll take on the NCAA wimps.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Corey

    As a Alaskan Native I just don't get it. They are not intended to be racist. They are in fact celebrating the fighting spirit of the Native people and should not be something to be ashamed of. Just like Lions, Bears, Spartans, etc. symbolize strength. My high school mascot was a Chieftain and another schools was the Warriors and I can guarantee that the students see those mascots with pride. I for one am proud when I see a Native symbol or hear a cities or states name that most people forget is a Native name like Chicago, Milwaukee heck even Ohio, Mississippi etc. And I would be proud if I had the opportunity to play for a school who's mascot was the Fighting Sioux. Sioux Falls, there's another one.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • btldriver

      I agree with you. Sometimes people need to look at a positive. When I read you're Native Alaskan I thought of the Aniak Halfbreeds, a school mascot chosen by the local residents in the 70's honoring a mixture of cultures when white settlers in the area married Yup'ik locals and had children. If the Lakota, Dakota and Sakota (heard of the first two but not the third one but OK) can come up with a name that represents all three tribes like the term Sioux then fine change the name but otherwise the logo is not cartoonish and the term "Fighting" is about the teams willingness to fight for a win and not meant to mean the Sioux are a ferocious people so leave it alone.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Zacho925

    What's really offensive is how much wasted time and money was spent battling this issue. The logo and mascot are in good taste and not offensive what-so-ever.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dean

    The Florida State who?????

    June 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • A

      The Seminole tribe gave their permission for FSU to keep their nickname, so this is unrelated to the current issue which is one of the Sioux tribes in ND has not given permission.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11